How property and debts, in a divorce or legal separation action, get divided, depends on many factors. The parties can always agree on how they divide their property and debts, but it is wise to review any proposed division with an attorney – to make sure you are getting a fair division.
If the parties can not agree on how to divide their property and debts then a judge will make that decision. The law requires that the court divide all of the property and debts owned by the parties “fairly and equitable”. There are some factors, in the law, that the judge must consider (value of property, types of property and debt, amount of debt, incomes of the parties) in dividing the property and debt but the law also allows for the judge to consider anything he/she feels is appropriate to consider.
A good family law attorney can help a client address several issues when it comes to property and debt issues. Regarding property, the first issue is identifying all of the property owned by the parties. Sometimes the parties may not even be aware that an asset even exists (a good example is a pension being earned by one spouse). After all of the assets are identified, each asset has to be valued. Many items owned by the parties (such as a table) are valued at what it can be sold for now (not its original cost). Some assets are more difficult to value, such as a pension plan (not to be confused with a 401(k)), and may require the help of a person specialized in valuing these types of assets. In most cases, all of the debts are easily identified.
Once all of the assets are identified and valued, how to fairly divide them becomes the final issue.
This article is not intended to convey legal advice, but only address some of the general rules. Most legal issues, in family law cases, depend on the specific facts. Should you wish to discuss your particular situation with the Law Office of Thomas A. Chillquist, please call or email my office. I represent parties in family law matters in King and Pierce County, including Kent, Federal Way, Covington, Renton, SeaTac, Des Moines, Fife, Auburn, Seattle and Bellevue.